Alex Summerfield is Honorary Associate Professor at the UQ School of Architecture and a Senior Research Associate at the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy, and Resources, University College London (UCL). Alex has over two decades of experience in research, consultancy, and teaching at the interface between technology and design in the built environment. His doctorate at the University of Sydney investigated advanced computer simulation techniques and methods of visualising architecture under daylight. Since 2004, his research at UCL has mainly focussed on the challenge of reductions in energy demand and carbon emissions from the built environment. In 2008, he was awarded a prestigious Research Council UK Academic Fellowship at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, where he also taught on the award-winning MSc Environmental Design and Engineering. In 2009, Alex moved to the UCL Energy Institute as the Academic Manager for the PhD research program, where he also directed and developed the MRes course in Energy Demand Studies. Alex has over 50 peer-reviewed publications, including chapters in key textbooks on sustainable design, and also has been a leading author on technical reports on energy demand for Industry and the UK government. In 2012, he was the invited editor for a special issue of Building Research & Information: Next Challenges in Energy and Buildings Research where he identified new approaches to research in order to address the scale, scope, and speed of change needed for the energy transition to occur.
Since arriving at UQ in 2016, Alex has led development of the Building Systems Research (BSR) program as an opportunity for multidisciplinary collaboration for both researchers and students at UQ and UCL. The BSR program makes use of the extensive streams of operational and other data from key building across the UQ campus. The program will initially focus on the Global Change Institute and the Advanced Engineering Building as examples of living laboratories that use innovative design strategies. Research projects will investigate various aspects of the performance of these award-winning buildings and the potential to further optimise energy demand, economic operation, and indoor conditions. Similarly advanced and complex building systems will be targeted for investigation at UCL. The BSR program will contribute to the IEA Energy in Buildings and Communities Annex 70 with innovated analytical methods for handling big data from building systems. Findings from this research will also support the broader objectives at UQ and UCL for lower carbon emissions and for these universities to act as exemplars of environmental sustainability.
Much of Alex’s research work has been directed towards advancing our understanding of energy demand reductions in the buildings sector, which form an essential part of meeting international and national targets for reductions in global carbon emissions. For instance, he has co-authored influential papers on quantifying the extent that changes in energy demand in the UK residential sector reflect energy efficiency measures, including improvements to the building fabric and heating systems via changes in building regulations. His work has also focused on differences between the predictions from energy models and empirical data on energy consumption across various types and age groups of dwellings. This strengthening of the evidence has helped inform the ongoing development of energy policy and research in the UK. In the non-domestic sector, he was part of a multidisciplinary team that contributed data and published papers as part of the European SINPHONIE project on improving guidelines for indoor air quality in schools. Outputs from this project have highlighted the unintended consequences of energy efficient school designs that can result in reduced ventilation rates and unacceptably high CO2 levels, as well as a range of other pollutants, in school classrooms.
Alongside colleagues, Alex has also pioneered the concept of energy epidemiology that takes a building systems approach with big data to address the challenge of energy demand reductions at scale in the existing built environment. This innovative multidisciplinary research program adapts empirical approaches and techniques from the health sciences to identify the role of factors that influence energy demand and other outcomes in the built environment. The value of this approach has been recognised with the funding of the EPSRC Centre for Energy Epidemiology at UCL, and it was also recently approved as the topic for Annex 70 of the IEA’s Energy in Buildings and Communities program. His recent work on developing the Building Systems Research program at UQ sees the application of energy epidemiology approach to operational data from complex commercial and public buildings.